It will be the moment of truth in a “battle of the tradesmen” in Taranaki this weekend – a Taupo locksmith hoping he has the key for the win and a Howick plumber hoping to pour cold water on those plans.
The New Zealand Cross-country Championships may come to a premature conclusion on farmland near Eltham on Saturday and, while it won’t please a few of the sport’s purists, it is certainly what Bay of Plenty locksmith Brad Groombridge has intended for the weekend.
Taupo’s Groombridge has won the first two of four rounds in this year’s series and, because points are to be counted from only three of the four rounds, with riders to discard their one worst result, the 25-year-old will start Saturday’s three-hour race with his confidence at an all-time high.
The Suzuki rider enjoyed impressive wins at round one near Huntly in February and repeated the dose at round two near Mosgiel on the first weekend of April, so all he needs now is to carry on that winning momentum at Glen Nui Station, about 25 kilometres east of Eltham, starting with a shotgun blast at about midday.
But that is actually easier said than done in this most brutal and unforgiving of sports.
One of his closest rivals, Howick rider Liam Draper, will also be is also hoping momentum works in his favour.
The 19-year-old Draper took his Husqvarna to win round three of the parallel and similar New Zealand Enduro Championships near Upper Hutt last weekend, with fellow dual-code contestant Groombridge forced to accept third overall on that occasion.
With that outcome from their most recent showdown, it seems that apprentice plumber Draper may be just the man to pour cold water on Groombridge’s plans for an early lock-down in the cross-country series.
Add into the mix the attack that is expected to come from Mokau’s record four-time former national cross-country champion Adrian Smith, who is currently second overall in the cross-country championships standings, along with the challenge that will also no doubt be posed by riders such as Coatesville’s Sam Greenslade, Titirangi’s Callan May and Pahiatua’s Charles Alabaster, and a fascinating battle is promised for Saturday.
In addition to fighting for the overall win, battles will also be fought for individual bike class honours, with separate categories also for veteran and women riders.
A 90-minute race for the juniors will also be held, set to start with a shotgun blast at about 9am, and the leading riders to watch for here include Raglan’s Logan Shaw, Nelson’s Jackson Walker, Cheviot’s Sam McPherson, Tapawera’s Keegan Anglesey and Eketahuna’s Chris Dickson.
After Saturday’s event, the riders will head to Nelson for the fourth and final round on May 14.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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